chester's blog

technology, travel, comics, books, math, web, software and random thoughts

Building a Pebble app with C, JavaScript and Rails (Toronto Transit Time)

11 Dec 2016 | Comments

Toronto Transit Time splash screen

Earlier this year I was looking for an app that showed predictions for Toronto streetcars/buses on my Pebble smartwatch. To my surprise, I could not find a single one that worked the way I expected it to (or that worked at all, to be honest), so I decided to build my own.

Little did I know that getting fast and reliable predictions on my wrist wasn’t just a matter of writing C code on the watch - it also required code running on the phone and on a server. Totaly worth it: I use Toronto Transit Time almost daily - and I’m not the only one.

This insight of the development process was originally intended to become a presentation for the likes of PebbleTO, but given the uncertain future of Pebble (recently acquired by FitBit), I decided to just publish it here as a supplement to the application’s source code.

Touring Portugal

06 Jun 2016 | Comments

A week in Portugal surely came with a special flavour for Brazilian expats like myself and Vanessa, but it is a trip anyone can enjoy. You get by with English, and also with Romance languages such as Spanish or French. Otherwise, just point the food and enjoy the sights!


Wii U Gamepad (Left) Analog Stick Replacement

07 Feb 2016 | Comments

Our Wii U Gamepad’s analog stick was intermittently failing to register, causing frustration right when I most needed fun and happiness. Recalibration didn’t help, and a new Gamepad would be expensive, so I tested my luck by replacing the analog stick with an aftermarket one.

It isn’t a super complex operation, but the components are quite delicate, requiring gentleness and attention. As usual, here is what I learned (and some tips):

Here is how it looks inside

Fixing Screen Tear on a Pebble Classic With... Toilet Paper!

18 Nov 2015 | Comments

The first-generation Pebble (now dubbed Pebble Classic) is, in my opinion, the best smartwatch in terms of cost/benefit. Unfortunately, a few of them start to manifest screen tearing after a few months of use, and mine was one of the “lucky” ones:

At first, I thought it was a software issue, but the actual cause is that the screen connector does not cope well with the frequent vibration alerts. Such connectors are usually hard to fix/replace, but the gentleman on the video below realized that some pressure over the connector solved the issue. His ingenious choice of padding material caught my eye: small pieces of toilet paper!

Five Canadian provinces in fifteen days

27 Sep 2015 | Comments

Despite living in Canada for three years now, I didn’t travel much outside the Great Toronto Area. My job at VarageSale and Vanessa’s at Shopify granted us a fair share of trips to their respective Montreal and Ottawa offices, but that still limits one’s mental map to Central Canada.

As part of my current sabbatical, I decided to learn more about my new country, so I joined Vanessa on a 6-day plane trip to the east, then got plane tickets to Saskatoon and from Vancouver with nine days between them, forcing myself to figure out a bus/train path connecting the dots.

Here are the cities I visited (all links are photo albums), followed by a wrap-up on each one:

A Trip To Japan

30 Mar 2015 | Comments

Judging by how much of my life I spent reading manga, watching anime and tokusastu, playing Pokémon on Nintendo, eating tempura, yakisoba and mochi, learning kanji, and so on, it just had to happen: Bani and I went to Japan!

After a daunting half-day flight and timezone shift, we spent a couple days in Osaka, followed by a 9-day travel package that took us to Koyasan, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Hakone, and finally Tokyo - where we had five more days of hectic fun.

Our adventures included a sleepover on a Buddhist monastery, volcano-boiled eggs, giant robots, purification rituals, a deer-populated sacred island, bullet trains, psychedelic dances, a manga museum and - why not - ear channel violation.

My Experience With PiScreen

14 Dec 2014 | Comments

Even though you can plug a Raspberry Pi to any modern TV/monitor, its diminutive size screams for a smaller screen, ideally a touch-sensitive one. PiScreen was one of the first (relatively) inexpensive screens like that. Excited by the video below, I backed its KickStarter in April, received it in October and just found the time to build it.

I had some fun, and I will still do some interesting stuff with it. Some projects are more suited for it than others, so you may want to check my experience and decide whether it suits your needs.

It was easy to plug this Atari in...

22 Oct 2014 | Comments

I just had to:

  • Connect the Atari antenna output to a Coaxial (F-type) to Female RCA adapter;
  • Plug that in the antenna input of a the VCR;
  • Use 3 RCA cables to feed the VCR A/V output into an AV-to-HDMI adapter;
  • Connect the adapter HDMI output to the monitor;
  • Configure the Atari to the “Channel 3” position;
  • Select channel 3 on the VCR.

Easy, right? :-P Now I can play my homebrew (2048 2600) on the real thing.

By the way, if you want to buy a physical 2048 2600 cart, Good Deal Games sells them. I have no participation in that (other than coding the open-source game and pestering Jenn Harrison into drawing the cool cartridge front art), but I’m really happy to have my game on a real cart!